by Michael McCormick
One of the premier sides in Europe, the Swedish Elks, are preparing to test out a new look team in the upcoming International Cup in August.
The Elks will blood several young players after having gone through a year of transition. More than half the team made their representative debut in a friendly match against Denmark in March this year.
“We will be looking to use the International Cup to build our group and give experience to the up and coming AFL players of Sweden,” stated Swedish Elks Team Manager, Jeremy Darke.
Darke, a 27 year old Australian expat who also coaches local team the Norrtälje Dockers, revealed that although playing non-European teams is a draw card for the tournament, old rivalries die young.
“To go up against teams that we have never faced before is the excitement of the International Cup,” said Darke. “Although we would love to beat Finland on the world stage.”
Having finished in eleventh place in 2011, the Elks are striving for a top ten placing in this year’s competition.
“With a spread of players from all over the country and domestic competitions it has been difficult to have stand-alone training sessions.
To prepare we have scheduled 2 friendly matches against Denmark and the Stockholm Dynamites.”
Although it will be the first trip down under for most of the younger players, Darke expects them to step up and catch the eye of AFL fans the world over.
“Hampus Ollson, Jacob Nilsson, Buster Sund are all young, solid players with a lot of passion for the game,” revealed Darke. “I’d expect them to be among our best performers for the tournament.”
The Elks have been fortunate in securing sponsorship to lessen the financial burden associated with making the trip to Melbourne.
“We have be able to acquire 6 bronze sponsors, but fundraising is still coming along slowly.”
The challenges faced to get there will be outweighed by the rewards, and not just in the form of competing.
“It would be a dream to go and watch the Gold Coast play in Melbourne and watch Ablett Jr. work his magic.”